In December of 1916, Mansfield, Ohio saw a death only Charles Fort could love. One evening, a neighbor came into the house of Clyde Brokaw to find the entire family—Clyde, his wife Mollie, and his fourteen-year-old stepdaughter Pauline Grubb all lying senseless on the floor. The adults slowly recovered when given medical attention, but Pauline was dead.
Everyone was baffled, and not a little disquieted, when they could not find any cause for the family’s simultaneous collapse. No trace of poison or drugs was found in their bodies, and there was no evidence any member of the family had purchased any such substances. There was no sign they could have suffered from ptomaine or other food poisoning. The house was well-ventilated, which eliminated the early supposition of suffocation. The trio had all been seen earlier in the day, perfectly well. They had no known enemies. The parents, when they had recovered, were unable to give any explanation for what had happened to them.
The coroner finally finished his investigation the following February, announcing that the sudden illness and death that struck the Brokaw family would be “an unsolved mystery always.”
He was right.
[A footnote: In 1918 a sad sequel to this story took place when Mollie Brokaw was judged insane and committed to the state hospital. Her doctors believed her mental condition traced back to the tragedy two years earlier.]